DUBAI // The arts received a double boost yesterday with the announcement of two multimillion-dirham projects.
The first, a glittering new cultural district in Downtown Dubai, will cater for aficionados of both opera and modern art.
The second, the expansion of the blossoming grassroots art scene in Al Quoz industrial area, will provide studio and gallery space for aspiring artists.
Emaar’s Downtown Dubai development was announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The new district will include a modern art museum and opera house.
Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz will double in size by 2014 as part of a Dh50m expansion plan.
Both announcements were made on the opening day of the Art Dubai international fair, part of the emirate’s annual Art Week.
The plans for Dubai’s new cultural district include not only the opera house and modern art gallery, but two “art hotels”, leisure attractions, design studios and apartments.
“The cultural accomplishments of a nation define its character and individuality,” said Sheikh Mohammed in a statement released by the state news agency Wam. “Having demonstrated our credentials in hosting world-class cultural events, the UAE has established itself as a thriving destination for culture and the arts.
“We will continue to strengthen the infrastructure framework for promoting cultural initiatives, through projects such as the Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District. This will not only encourage our talented local artists but also facilitate global cultural exchange.”
Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, said: “It will be Dubai’s definitive entertainment destination that stimulates creativity, supports the arts sector, and also offers visitors their choice of hospitality and leisure.
“The focus of Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District is to stimulate the city’s cultural and artistic milieu through an opera house, modern art museum, galleries and design studios – in short, the entire infrastructure for arts and culture to thrive.”
The architectural plans for the district, which will be centred on Emaar Boulevard, are being finalised, and construction work is expected to start soon.
The opera house announcement was welcomed by Art Dubai fair director Antonia Carver: “It’s always very positive to have cultural centres of all kinds, whether they be performing or visual arts. It’s very exciting.
“Art Week really showcases the growing maturity of the Dubai arts scene. The vision of public cultural centres and not-for-profit institutions is perhaps the new way that is now happening in Dubai to complement the commercial sector.”
Alserkal Avenue has grown steadily since 2007 with the support of the entrepreneur Abdelmonem Alserkal. The expansion plan is a response to increasing demand for space and is due to be completed in 2014, with the entire Dh50 million cost being met by the Alserkal family.
At present half of the avenue’s 39 warehouse spaces are used for cultural purposes, and a further 62 units ranging in size from 93 square metres to more than 650 sq m are to be created in the new extension. There will be an events centre large enough to hold 1,000 people, and the project will increase the avenue’s total area to 92,000 sq m.
Parking for 500 cars will be provided, and the existing galleries will continue to operate normally during the development of the adjoining site.
“I think this is the natural growth of the art community that was born in this area,” said Mr Alserkal. “It will add an extension of the art community in Dubai where artists, galleries and art lovers can get together and share their concerns.”
He said the galleries and artists who had moved to the district deserved the praise for its growth: “I think the risk was taken by the art galleries who came and invested here. OK, we had the vision, but they are the ones that put in their money and believed in this area. They are the ones that should be given the credit for investing here.”
The plans include a private museum to display items from the family’s collection.
“We are forming a fund to invest in international art and local art,” Mr Alserkal said. “The existing art we have is mostly international and mostly has to do with Arabic calligraphy and Arabic and Islamic design.”
He said Emirati artists would benefit from the expansion, and he and his team were discussing how this would be achieved.
The initiative was welcomed by existing gallery owners. Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum, creative director of the Fn Design Studio, said: “I think it’s very exciting, the expansion will bring more galleries and more people. I think it’s going to be fantastic once everyone comes in and the expansion happens, it’s going to bring more recognition to the area.
“It’ll be good not just for Emirati artists, because Dubai is a mix of cultures, and I think it should be promoting every artist from around the world who is living and working here.”